Red Pill was introduced to some of us via the Ugly Heroes self-titled debut that dropped in 2013. Two years later in 2015, this man dropped three solo projects one of which includes the (future) classic and his solo debut in “Look What This World Did To Us”. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Ugly Hero was going to release another LP here in 2016, but what was next? I remember hearing inklings that the new solo from Pill would be something different. “Instinctive Drowning” is not the hip-hop LP you were expecting, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t say this is one of the most beautiful records to come out this year. This time teaming up with Ohio veteran Ill Poetic who handled all the production, Red Pill takes us even further into his personal narrative.
First off, this isn’t an album you’re going to fully understand on your first go round and that’s ok. In that same breath you’ll be able to pick up and absorb certain themes on the album. The album kicks in with “The New Normal”. Pill and Poetic throw us right into the fray, no mincing words, no introductions. The album starts with “And everything was different then / After the hospital I told myself I had the chance to live again/ I’m gonna change this shit/I’m gonna kill the part of my brain where the pain exists”. This isn’t your weekend turnup album folks, this is a real person dealing with real shit and putting it into music.
Jump a couple tracks (as an aside I strongly suggest listening to “Four Part Cure”) and we have “Stars”. Now I have to continue to reiterate the point that all these songs are connected “Stars” is no different and comes after the funky “Club Privilege” joint. Pill speaks on the life he’s been living as an artist and while it is sometimes filled with praise it’s not all glamorous. Red Pill has performed over the entire world with legends, but that doesn’t stop him from being human. Pill still deals with the anxiety, the nervousness and awkwardness that he’s been dealing with for a while. We all can relate to what he’s saying, even if we’re too afraid to admit it.
“Gin & Tonic” calls back to “Rum & Coke” from his debut, but immediately after that is what I believe to be the climax of the album in the title track. I’m not going to spoil it, because I definitely feel that it’s a track you need to listen to on your own. However I will say both Red Pill and Ill Poetic have outdone themselves with this. It’s one thing to be personal, it’s one thing to put the surface of your story out there but on the title track we plunge even deeper into the abyss. Red Pill lays it all out there for the listener and Ill Poetic crafted an epic for the climax of the album. The track escalates like a storm. With both Pill and the production building open the foundation created not just at the beginning of the song but the beginning of the album. You can feel the pain and the emotion in every word said, it brings the album together, it’s as devastating as it is courageous. I demand you listen to this song.
“Instinctive Drowning” isn’t just 10 of the best songs Red Pill and Ill Poetic recorded in a session of 100 and then slapped together to listen to. No, this was a well-crafted and calculated project that tells a story, it challenges the listener not only to engage in more attentive listening but also to the issues we brush under the rug daily. There are overarching themes of depression, alcoholism, grief, yet still have undertones of civil rights, love and more. This is a heavy record, you’re not leaving this record smiling and you might leave it more sad than before. But “Instinctive Drowning” is a needed album on many fronts and I don’t think we’re ever going to get something like this again.